REVIEW- ELF19: Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers

July 31, 2019

How a cross-section of New Zealand educators shared insights and strategies for optimising the positive learning benefits of digital learning developments while minimising harmful effects. This article first appeared in Education Central  on 30 July 2019.

The 50th anniversary of the Moonwalk reminds us that Apollo 11’s inboard computing power for the amazing return journey was less than we each carry in our smart phones.

Real lunar crusaders in 1969 were followed a decade later by fictitious galactic raiders like Darth Vader and addictive arcade games such as Space Invaders.

The portable touchscreen device, hardly a teenager, denotes another chapter in an interwoven science fact and fiction narrative. It is a double-edged lightsabre.

Educators from across the learning spectrum and around New Zealand met at the thirteenth annual Education Leaders Forum: Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers in Dunedin on 17 & 18 July to grapple with digital issues and opportunities.  The focus was on strategies for bridging digital divides, unlocking digital dividends and avoiding digital dangers.

ELF19, the 13th in an annual series, was run by SmartNet and hosted by principal sponsor Otago Polytechnic. Te Kura was a sponsor and supporters were Enterprise Dunedin (DCC) and the Ministry of Education.

The forum was timely because of digital developments and topical concerns which have dramatically altered the online environment.

In response the Ministry of Education has revised and strengthened the National Curriculum to include Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko learning, effective 2020. Whatever pathway they choose to take, children and young people will be equipped with the necessary digital skills to take part and thrive in a fast-evolving connected world.

Technology

After several billion years the last few human centuries have introduced into the equation of Planet Earth’s evolution an exponential factor- technology. Digital and other technologies have transformed the way we learn, work and take time out.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence and engineering mean science fiction is now science fact. Drones, electric cars, 3d printing, hover boards, augmented and virtual reality are fast becoming our collective reality. Netflix recommends the movies we view and Spotify organises the personalised sound track of our lives.

Educators feel the depth of digital challenges. They can either be overwhelmed by them and opt out or share and implement strategies to cope.

 

Democratisation of Learning

Phil Ker, CEO of Otago Polytechnic opened ELF19 with a keynote on Integrating Learning and Work in the Digital Age. Information technology has led to a democratisation of learning. “The digital transformation of life enables individuals to play a bigger role in their own learning and careers, in partnership with educators, who have an important role to play helping learners integrate learning and work.”

However, highly relevant learning is often not captured in the workplace, despite the fact that there are severe labour and skills shortages. Two of Otago Polytechnic’s innovative services remedy this by using digital tools for learners to personalise learning and capture evidence of an individual’s knowledge and skills.

Edubits (also known as digital micro-credentials) allow learners to show what they know by submitting examples of their skills to be assessed and recognised. Each assessment is small enough to be manageable for busy people, but big enough to be meaningful to employers and give them a better picture of an individual’s potential to add to an organisation’s productivity.

CAPABLE NZ assesses and values the prior learning of individuals who want to become qualified, and support the workplaces that employ them. The service measures a person’s existing capability, gained through years of work and life experience, against an actual qualification and give academic credit for what they already know.

Digital Divides

Access to technology and digital skills have become increasingly essential for people to fully participate in society and the economy. Digital exclusion is a new measure of poverty. The poor and low skilled are being left behind in the digital world. 100,000 students in New Zealand do not have access to internet from their home.

Irihāpeti Mahuika, Director of Learning at Haeata Community Campus shared Haeata’s experience with ConnectED, the Greater Christchurch Schools’ Network Trust programme of Equitable Digital Access for learners and their community. Launched in 2018, in partnership with Chorus, N4L and MoE, Project ConnectED connects students and whānau to their education from home and has had a positive effect on the whole school community.

Internet access is one key indicator of digital inclusion, but as well as access people must also have the motivation, skills, and confidence to go online. It is important for learners to be digitally savvy and creative in an online world. There needs to be a bigger shift from digital consumption to creative production. The focus on access is now shifting to building and assessing digital capability.

Bridging digital divides and digital inclusion is also a challenge in respect of some teachers, education leaders and policy makers.  An increasing number of schools are turning their classrooms into BYOD environments, with financial demands on parents to buy prescribed devices.  University of Auckland researcher Jiansheng Cui says we need to be aware of whether teachers are fully prepared and well supported to make the most of this.

Digital Dividends

With the ongoing shift from paper to digital and from traditional classrooms and lecture halls to more flexible learning environments with big and small group activities and individual learning spaces, blended learning approaches are improving  learner engagement and learning outcomes. The experience of learning itself as being profoundly changed by immersive technology.

The challenge is to balance access via connected digital devices with the mediating power of human cognition and imagination.

The promise of lifelong personalised learning pathways is increasingly being turned into practice with learners becoming more autonomous and powerful in shaping their own learning and career destinies, in partnership with responsive educators.

Nicola Ngarewa, Principal of Spotswood College spoke at ELF19 on DISRUPT-ED: Embracing the future. She shared the transformative journey from a traditional learning context to a future-focused educational model, drawing on her experience of leading this shift in two schools of different contexts – an underperforming decile 1 area school, and a high performing decile 5 traditional high school.

Mike Hollings
, Chief Executive of Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu shared experiences from Te Kura’s transformative shift online in using digital technology to enhance learning in terms of access, engagement and learner agency.

Te Kura’s award-winning online learning environment “My Te Kura” provides engaging, accessible personalised learning opportunities, adapting the international Big Picture learning approach to each learner’s context.  Students engage in real life learning opportunities, with their passions and interests at the centre and their whānau and community connected to their learning.

Learners develop relevant skills and knowledge with learning that extends well beyond the traditional concept of the classroom. The music video ‘Echoes of the Sun’, was created through online collaboration in My Te Kura between more than 50 students.

Cheryl Adams, CEO, Animation Research and Jimmy McLauchlan, Business Development, Methodist Mission Southern demonstrated their joint Prison Virtual Reality Learning Project.  65% of people in New Zealand prisons lack NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy skills, severely limiting their educational and employment opportunities on release and increasing their risk of re-offending on release.

With support from University of Otago Information Science Department and Ngāti Kahungunu, the two organisations, are working alongside prison-based learners at Otago Corrections Facility to co-design, develop and evaluate virtual reality learning tools – with the aim of significantly improving engagement, completion and achievement rates for learners in prison literacy and numeracy programmes.

Jessica Tulp, Business Associate, Soul Machines spoke on Humanising Technology via the world’s first Digital Brain™. She demonstrated how Soul Machines’ breakthroughs in Experiential Learning add Human intelligence to AI, taking interactions beyond algorithms and enabling “digital humans” to “accumulate experiences, learn, and respond emotionally”.

Paul Stevens, GM, Open Knowledge Group at Catalyst surveyed Education and Open Source IT Innovation. Kiwis have a unique perspective and are famous for their ingenuity and innovation. As a young country we’re not constrained by the same boundaries as others.

NZ-headquartered Catalyst’s solutions reflect this. The Open Source organisation has implemented some of the world’s largest Learning Management Systems using open source technologies to outsmart larger international competitors. Paul also had some lessons for educators in how to avoid digital lock-in to proprietary platforms and ensure delivery flexibility.

Fraser Liggett
, Economic Development Programme Manager at Enterprise Dunedin, DCC spoke on education-business links and the fostering of innovation. He also updated participants on Dunedin’s evolving Centre of Digital Excellence. The business case for CODE is being led by Enterprise Dunedin. “Once developed the Centre of Digital Excellence will build on the city’s entrepreneurial and digital strengths, particularly in game development and associated sectors, including education and training,” said Mr Liggett.

The CODE initiative is one of the projects tagged for funding through the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund. A robust application is being developed before plans to invest $10 million over 10 years to enhance Dunedin’s thriving gaming industry can be confirmed.

Prof Tim Bell, Department Computer Science and Software Engineering, University of Canterbury emphasised that the New Digital Technologies Curriculum sounds like it would be mainly about devices, but in fact it is more about people because devices aren’t an end in themselves, but a means for helping people to achieve their goals. He clarified ideas and terminology key to digital systems and reflected on how to help teachers get up to speed with the changed curriculum.

Tim is involved in the Kia Takatū Ā-Matihiko Digital Readiness Programme which the MoE has put in place to support the implementation of Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko (DT & HM) learning.

Andy Kilsby, Director Employability, Otago Polytechnic ran a workshop on EduBits – a new way for learners to show what they know. EduBits is a micro-credentialing service which Otago Polytechnic provides to partner educational delivery beyond the classroom, making learning accessible and visible to industry and learners. This can dovetail into the Polytechnic’s CAPABLE NZ assessment service.

Digital Dangers

All technologies have downsides as well as upsides. The new technologies of today grow faster and affect more people more quickly.  This leads to big challenges as well as big opportunities.

The business models which support a largely free and open connected world, where people can use technology to empower themselves and have their voices heard, can also be used by the unscrupulous for nefarious purposes via digital addiction and improper sharing of personal data with third parties for political or commercial purposes, as in the Cambridge Analytical Scandal.

At the personal level the deleterious effects of technology binging are exacerbated in still developing young brains. There has never been a greater need to invest in digital capability and protection. All learning communities need to develop strategies to support their students’ development of digital skills, citizenship, online safety and wellbeing.

Dr Mary Redmayne, Independent Researcher at Victoria and Monash Universities, addressed The Dangers of Screen Overuse and outlined the emerging effects on child development in terms of physical and mental health. Extensive screen time can lead to behavioural problems, anxiety and depression. Without conscious steps to be in control of one’s use of screens, the journey to screen-dependence can follow.

Netsafe education advisors Anjie Webster and Pauline Spence picked up on topical issues of Online Safety and Wellbeing in a presentation and a workshop. There is a need for all learning communities to develop and update strategies to support student development of digital citizenship, online safety and wellbeing.

Netsafe provides resources and funds and runs workshops with interested schools and groups, either after social media incidents which may have occasioned adverse publicity or as proactive learning sessions linked to challenges presented by digital technology. The focus is on raising awareness of challenging digital issues and providing resources for developing appropriate school and home strategies.

Donald Matheson, Media and Communications at the University of Canterbury spoke on Fake News and Flaky Views. Educating young people to stay safe and not do harm is important, but just as important is educating them about how to participate and share constructively online, listen across differences, think critically and access credible sources of information.

Social media platforms bring huge benefits such as a more open and inclusive society and opportunities for collective action. But they also diffuse responsibility for the public good and remove filters.

The March Christchurch terrorist attack has prompted more urgent debate about regulating social media sites and educating users to tackle online prejudice by handling information critically.

Technology Uptake

Amara’s Law states that we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

The hype cycle encapsulated in Amara’s law depicts the maturity of emerging technologies through five phases: 1. A technology trigger with early interest in a potential technology breakthrough; 2. The peak of inflated expectations through early success stories; 3. The trough of disillusionment as implementations failed to deliver; 4. The slope of enlightenment as understanding of how the technology can benefit becomes more widespread; 5. The plateau of productivity when mainstream adoption starts to take off, with the technologies relevance clearly paying off.

Educators need to be adaptive and adopt proven edtech from the ‘plateau of productivity’ to help grow brains and open minds in order to develop in their learners the mix of knowledge and technical and soft skills necessary for an innovative economy in an open society.

A balanced learning diet is the key, incorporating an appropriate mix of hi-tech, low-tech and no-tech learning resources and activities aimed at inculcating self-knowledge, deepening scientific knowledge, sharpening digital skills and developing soft skills such as critical thinking, communication, empathy, collaboration and decision-making.

Natural Intelligence > Artificial Intelligence

By analogy some products of the Age of Artificial Intelligence can help us better understand and appreciate Natural Intelligence: the power of the Spine-Top Computer and the importance of human development in the first 1,000 days.

Machine learning has advanced in quantum leaps to resemble aspects of human neural activity. For highly focused tasks like playing chess AI is now demonstrably better than humans. Two decades after IBM Deep Blu’s chess victory over Gary Kasparov in 1997, Google’s AlphaZero programme comprehensively defeated the then world computer champion the Stockfish 8 programme by winning 28 games and tying 72.

The latter had access to collated human chess experience as well as computer experience. The new digital champ was not taught any chess openings or strategies by humans. Instead it used the latest machine learning principles to teach itself chess by playing against itself.

From total ignorance to creative mastery this took the programme 4 hours, without the help of any human guide.

But in a far wider range of human tasks the human brain is still impossible to match, especially in synthesising sensory and mental information to make reality intelligible and being creative, asking questions and making predictions. But it must be constantly challenged and kept active throughout life.

As Michael Hewitt-Gleeson warns “If you don’t do your own thinking Artificial Intelligence will do it for you.  But, there is no guarantee that AI will think in your own interest at all.”
Lyall Lukey convened Education Leaders Forum 2019 Digital Divides, Dividends &  Dangers  Dunedin 17/18 July, 2019.


TOMORROW’S SKILLS, YESTERDAY’S BUREAUCRACY

February 27, 2019

 Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2019 Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers, argues that while there are undoubtedly big system and funding issues to address in the vocational education and training sector, the centralisation concept announced on 13 February is not the most effective way forward.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo credit: Andrew Lukey   Post Quakes1

Guns not Roses

Echoes of Chicago 90 years ago: just in time for St Valentine’s Day, Industry Training Providers and Industry Training Organisations were lined up side-by-side, with large targets affixed, blinking in the media spotlight.

Triggers were not yet pulled but fingers were twitching as Minister of Education Chris Hipkins announced the vision of an over-arching New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology.

NZIST-not to be confused with Winston’s mob- would replace the 16 autonomous institutes of technology and polytechnics, (ITPs) and 11 industry training organisations (ITOs ) with a single entity to establish a “unified, coordinated, national system of vocational education and training” for around 200,000 New Zealand students by the end of 2020.

But does this display 20/20 vision?

Polytechnics employed 8,150, and ITOs 1,300, full-time-equivalent staff in 2017. In a double bureaucratic whammy the current roles of ITOs would apparently be split between the new national organisation and the Tertiary Education Commission.

The role of the TEC in ensuring the integrity of funding via trough protection and snout muzzling has already expanded after it swallowed Careers New Zealand in 2017 to become a hybrid funder/provider.

Absolutely Negatively…

Try this thought experiment, with last week’s eighth anniversary of the lethal February Christchurch quake in mind.
Can you imagine happening, under a centralised governance model, the same kind of prompt response as actually occurred through collaboration between Christchurch Polytechnic (now Ara)  and local ITOs  to address the skills needs of devastated Christchurch businesses?

If you can, Christchurch people with experience of especially created central government bodies like Cera and  Ōtākaro,  with a focus just on Christchurch’s  recovery not the whole country, will quickly disabuse you. These entities often sidelined local knowledge and input.  Even local civic governance bodies have been left incommunicado. Que Cera Sera.

Roger Smyth’s recent EC article tells how it took a seismic crisis for key parts of the vocational education system to work really effectively together, despite funding constraints, on the skills needs of the Canterbury rebuild.

There are lessons to be learnt. Those immersed in the local knowledge ecology, with an understanding of local business needs, trump absent planners with whiteboards and spreadsheets every time.

The Empire Striking Back?

The Minister acknowledged that the proposed changes are significant. “However, the risks of not making changes are also significant,” he said. “Disruption now will strengthen the vocational education system for the long term.”

Sceptics may point to the infamous quote in Peter Arnett’s 1968 AP Vietnam dispatch: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

The aim is to create a new, more streamlined and sustainable funding system and a more co-ordinated sector that can better respond to technology-driven workplaces. Both are long overdue and are changes the sector itself has long proposed.

The aims are forward looking, but the organisational solution proposed is a bureaucrat’s retrospective damp dream. In 2018 the Minister himself said that a highly centralised system faced issues relating to a lack of flexibility

Innovation

In a digitised world the nature of learning, work and everyday life is changing rapidly, with huge implications for education and training.

There is a direct link between a nation’s future prosperity and its ability to develop the knowledge and skills that deliver innovation. The ability to identify and prepare for present and future skills requirements is increasingly critical for education and training organisations, businesses and individuals.

Specific hard skills and soft skills sets are in increasingly high demand. There is a growing emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving, communications and collaboration, digital literacy and career and life skills, with an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability, initiative and cross-cultural interaction.

In the words of the Minister “Instead of our institutes of technology retrenching, cutting programmes, and closing campuses, we need them to expand their course delivery in more locations around the country.”

Some are doing exactly this now and are performing well, having succeeded in spite of, not because of, the present funding model.

Ara Institute of Canterbury has reported surpluses since its 2015 amalgamation and name change. Chief executive Tony Gray has expressed concern about how effective the proposed regional leadership groups would be.

A Balanced Alternative

Another well performing ITP is Otago Polytechnic. Here are some excerpts of what CE Phil Ker said in a post-announcement interview on Radio New Zealand: 

Q: Are the proposed changes good for the sector?

A: Yes and no.

“Yes . . . Polytechnics are haemorrhaging because of a grossly inadequate funding system that’s not fit for purpose.”

Yes . . . we applaud it being fixed. Ironically, if the funding model had been fixed 2-3 years ago, we wouldn’t have had this haemorrhaging.”

Yes . . . we applaud the intention to move towards more seamless learning via institutions and work-based solutions….”

No . . . the proposed model of one institution – head office and branches – completely removes the autonomy of the current institutions. We thought there might have been a move to a model that combined the best elements of a centralised system approach with a semi-autonomous institution approach….”

“Under a combined model, certain central functions could have been mandated – buildings, back-of-house systems, staff training are a few examples. But the combined model meant we could also have the autonomy to offer programmes of learning that made sense to local regions. That autonomy would also mean we could respond not only locally but nationally – to areas where there’s a need but perhaps a relatively low volume…”

Q: Do you think such centralisation and rationalisation threatens the local characteristics of polytechnics?

A: “… It’s a model-of-delivery issue. I’m arguing for the retention of autonomy – to enable institutions to respond to industry demand. I think the proposed model will, in fact, drive out responsiveness and innovation…” 

His subsequent ODT comments had this postscript “…I am not opposed to rationalising and a degree of centralisation of our polytechnic system. I am opposed to the particular model proposed by the Minister – it will throw out a lot of babies with the bath water. There is an alternative model which will still see a unified system, but which also preserves the autonomy of the individual institutions… We can have the best of both worlds.”

Civic Support

In support of Otago Polytechnic Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said ”The proposed merger risks undoing a lot of good work and would see Otago Polytechnic potentially being subservient to an organisational structure that may not understand or care about our local needs…We need Otago to remain autonomous, and flexible and responsive to local needs.”

The promoters of the current government’s Provincial Growth Fund talk about getting “buy in from local communities”. But vocational education demands more than that from regional stakeholders: it needs active collaboration, participation and partnership.

Dunedin’s digital ecosystem provides great examples of the cross-fertilisation between the education and business sectors.  Innovator of the Year Ian Taylor,  Animation Research has worked in this space for a quarter of a century.

He first came to public attention in the 1990s by making America’s Cup racing watchable via digital graphics and animation. He is currently working in Dunedin on a Virtual Reality prison literacy programme, in collaboration with the Methodist Mission South.

Alignment of Education and Training 

The Review of Vocational Education inevitably spawned the acronym ROVE. Perhaps the more appropriate acronym is RIVET for Review of and Intentions for Vocational Education and Training.

But just how riveting is the announced vision?

While the words “education” and “training are often used as synonyms it’s useful to  distinguish between them. The difference is evident when comparing “sex(uality) education” with “sex training”. (Now there’s an industry which missed the opportunity to set up its own ITO.).

Oversimplified, but the distinction does help clarify aspects of the respective roles of ITPs and ITOs, the first institution-based and the second located in the workplace.

The two vocational sub-sectors have often been like two trains travelling on parallel tracks to the same destination but with often poor communication between the respective drivers, to the detriment of passengers.

Integration of learning with work

The ROVE document says that the system needs to increase the amount of vocational learning that takes place in the workplace. Phil Ker agrees with better aligning trades training with polytechnic study, ”… integration of learning with work is critical. But that has to be designed for; staff have to be trained to do it.”

The most effective learning comes from a parallel process of knowing and doing, not through an analogue approach of accumulating lumps of knowledge first and then focusing on thinking skills and problem-solving.

But progress in integration does not require a single governance body. Joining the dots is not the same as erasing them. 

Qualifications and Employability 

According to the OECD, “Skills are the new world currency”. There is a growing demand for just-in-time learning to meet changing skill needs.

How do you improve knowledge and skill acquisition and make it easier for learners to demonstrate what they know and can do? 

National rationalisation of the tangled mess of qualifications is long overdue and now underway A big benefit in having a more integrated vocational education system is that it will make overhauled vocational qualifications more relevant and attractive-and more manageable time-wise.

Micro-credentials are an increasingly valuable part of the new skills currency. They enable people to show what they know and can do through digital certification, validating new learning as well as skills and knowledge already acquired.

Learning institutions handle quality control. For example, Otago Polytechnic’s micro-credential service EduBits works closely with the business sector and helps employers focus on their particular requirements.

Micro-credentials make visible employees, present and potential, who have got key skills or knowledge not indicated by conventional qualifications.

Trading Up 

One aim of the vocational shake-up is to correct the tertiary/ trades imbalance. According to the Minister of Education “Our thinking needs to shift from the idea that the ultimate goal of senior secondary schooling is to prepare young people for university,” 

Shorter workplace-integrated programmes will distinguish more clearly the offerings of polytechnics from those of universities.

Important v Urgent

Just as Wintec’s dirty washing was being re-aired publicly may have seemed to be a good time to play a reverse trump card and make a wall demolition announcement.

Minister Hipkins said that the vocational education sector is currently unsustainable and financially unviable “and the Government is moving to find a solution quickly”.

But the 6 weeks allowed for feedback is derisory, especially when contrasted with the timeline and process for the Tomorrow’s Schools Review.

Reform of the fragmented and competitive vocational sector may be well overdue but the important shouldn’t be dressed up as the urgent. It is not a National Emergency; rather it is a national opportunity to come up with an appropriate confederate balance of regional and national arrangements.

A large degree of governance autonomy, separate identities and distributed leadership models are the keys to credible local engagement in a networked digital age.

At the same time, curriculum and qualifications  reform,  professional development, digital  learning resource sharing and physical infrastructure, HR, health and safety all lend themselves to more national “back office” co-ordination and cost saving, so long as the “front office” identity and professional and business relationships are maintained where they are demonstrated to be working.

If not, some further amalgamations may be required such as those which over the last 4 years have led to the formation of Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and Ara Institute of Technology.

Leading not Imposing Change

“People will support what they help to create.” Marvin Weisbord
Finding appropriate solutions to real issues is not just about why change should happen. It is about what change happens, how it happens and when. A  Roger Douglas big bang approach may force things through, but with unacceptable collateral damage.

The fallout after a policy announcement bombshell needs time to clear for the way forward to crystallise. More time needs to be spent on the vision and strategy, working with all the key players, before the focus turns to implementation.

The effective way to bring about change that lasts is to really engage with key players in order to do more of what is working well now. This is the Appreciative Inquiry approach to organisational change. It focuses on strengths rather than on weaknesses, deficits and problems.

As Industry Training Federation chief executive Josh Williams points out, the reforms should aim to strengthen industry-led training organisations rather than dismantling them.

Warwick Quinn, Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation chief executive says that while he understood the need for change, “We must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater…”. The changes needed to protect what was working well, and retain the positive aspects of on-the-job training and apprenticeships, especially in high-needs areas, such as building and construction.

Removing system blockages is a valid activity for political plumbers. But while it is important to repair, rejig and replace some parts of the present vocational reticulation system, it is just as  important  to reinforce those parts which are working well and so avoid  disrupting the flow of skills acquisition.

What is not required is a KiwiBuild-type approach, giant in concept but pygmy on delivery, for instilling the skills of the very people required to build houses and the nation.

Mobilising knowledge and expertise

At Education Leaders Forum 2018, UK speaker Prof.Toby Greany  explored the    intersections between policy, practice and evidence and the ways in which knowledge, expertise and capacity moves around within and between organisations.
His models for knowledge mobilisation, the development and impact of networks and collaboration, along with his approach to education leadership and professional development are highly relevant for building momentum for positive step changes in regards to vocational education and training.

The cold logic of ideology and the selective use of financial data from a chronically underfunded sector should not drive out the knowledge and experience of key players.

** https://conversation.education.govt.nz/conversations/reform-of-vocational-education/have-your-say **         (You’ve only got until 27 March!)

Lyall Lukey Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2019 Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers Dunedin 17&18 July.

 

 

 


NCEA Trivial Pursuit?

November 18, 2018

Exams-Getty

“New Zealand students say word ‘trivial’ in exam confused them.”
  BBCNews Headline 16/11/18

Year 13 Level 3 NCEA exam students (usually aged between 17 and 18 at exam time) were recently asked to write a History essay based on the Julius Caesar quote: “In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.”

More than 2,600 people signed an online petition over the “unfamiliar” word, demanding not to be marked down as a result of their lack of comprehension.

Examiners said the language used was expected to be within the range of the year 13 students’ vocabulary. However, in a statement, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority [NZQA] added: “If candidates have addressed the quote and integrated their ideas with it, then they will be given credit for the strength of their argument and analysis and will not be penalised for misinterpreting the word ‘trivial’.”

That’s all right then-and at least the petitioners displayed some digital and collaborative skills as well as their surprising semantic deficit.

But perhaps the old-fashioned exam format, involving writer’s cramp-inducing marathons for those who use pens of any sort infrequently, is the real trivial pursuit.

All concerned will watch the continued roll out of the NZQA’s digital transformation process with interest.

20/20 Vision

NZQA’s vision is for NCEA examinations to be made available online by 2020.

The approach to online examinations reflects the teaching and learning happening in classrooms and the capabilities of the technology to support a good digital examination user experience in a given subject. This means that it may be some time before all subjects are available for online examination.

While the approach is currently focussed on digitising the paper-based examinations to help schools manage the transition, the opportunity exists to support a transformation in the way in which external assessments when digitally supported teaching and learning is pervasive. See https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/future-state/digital-assessment-vision/.

At the same time, since 2017 NZQA has been digitising its approach to external moderation of internally assessed work, since learners are increasingly producing and submitting learning evidence digitally. The vision is to see 100% of moderation materials, in subjects where it’s appropriate, being submitted digitally by 2020.

A more effective and accessible digital system for accessing and sharing learning evidence from internal and external assessment will benefit learners, educators  and employers alike.

Lyall Lukey 18/11/18

[Lyall Lukey was a History teacher and external  History exam marker many moons ago. He still holds the world records for the number of pages he filled in his own School Cert. History Exam and for the smallest fraction of a mark awarded per completed page. He has given up playing Trivial Pursuit. Among other things, since 2007 he has been  the convener of  annual NZ-wide Education Leaders Forums .]

 


Job Currency: By Degrees? Without Qualifications? With Micro-credentials?

September 3, 2018

Speaking at the recent 12th annual Education Leaders Forum in Rotorua, Phil Ker, CE Otago Polytechnic generated  interest  with his presentation “Micro-credentials: an old dog with some new tricks!”  ELF Convener Lyall Lukey explains why. This article was first published on Educational Central on 29 August 2018.

See you later?

By itself a degree or a diploma is no guarantee of appropriate workplace performance. Some may argue that the Texas student who recently posed for graduation snaps  in the water, with an alligator  another snap away, should have her degree replaced forthwith with a Darwin Award.

“Tertiary qualifications not required”

Last year more than 100 New Zealand organisations signed an open letter saying that tertiary qualifications are not required for a range of skilled roles in their workplaces. Instead, they were themselves willing to assess the skills, attitudes, motivation and adaptability of candidates in order to cope with a shortage of skilled workers in a rapidly changing employment  environment.

Likewise reports The Wall Street Journal U.S. employers are dropping both work history and degree requirements in order to attract a larger pool of job candidates. This seemed to work for  one newish  high office incumbent .

Micro-credentials: Some new tricks!

At the points of entry and promotion, fast filters developed by independent experts are obviously useful for both employers and job  seekers.

Enter micro-credentials- specific mini-qualifications which recognise smaller, more discrete sets of skills and knowledge than a degree or diploma.

At ELF18 Phil Ker said that micro-credentials are enjoying an international resurgence, both in response to time and money costly traditional qualifications and to meet employer demand for training that meets specific work needs at a time of rapid technological and social change.

The “old dog” turns out to be a very lively greyhound, especially when compared to existing Clydesdale qualifications. It can take 10 years to complete a part-time degree and two years plus to do a part-time certificate.

Traditional qualifications are also slow and costly to develop and cannot respond quickly to new skills needed by industry. Micro-credentials can be custom-made in short development time-frames.

Showing you’ve got what it takes

“Edubits validate sets of skills and knowledge developed through experience or through new learning. They are flexible, online, anywhere, anytime and cost effective.” Phil Ker, CE Otago Polytechnic

There is a growing demand for just-in-time learning to meet these changing skill needs. Micro-credentials enable people to show what they know and can do through digital certification, validating new learning as well as skills and knowledge already acquired.

Otago Polytechnic’s micro-credential service EduBits  works closely with the business sector and helps  employers frustrated with deciphering omnibus qualifications focus on their particular requirements.  It also makes visible employees, present and potential, who have got key skills or knowledge not indicated by conventional qualifications.

The key components of the service, on-line and/or face-to-face, are the assessment of required competencies and either the identification of prior experiential learning or the delivery of developmental training.

Present EDUbits include Health & Safety, Team Management, Microsoft Skills, Project Management.

EduBits can quickly be tailor-made to satisfy organisation-specific requirements. Dr Lance O’Sullivan is using EduBits to validate the skills of the digital health assessors involved in iMOKO, the innovative digital health service for children  which has just gone national with the support of the Wright Family Foundation.

Once awarded, an EduBit digital badge can be added to online profiles like LinkedIn, personal websites, email signatures and CVs. The badge encapsulates the assessment metadata attesting to particular workplace knowledge and skills that are not necessarily linked to academic qualifications, though some EduBits can be NZQA endorsed.

Potted History: Mismatch and Mishmash

Changes in workplace practices are forever outrunning the attempts of education and training providers to keep up. Innovation and disruption creates an on-going mismatch between the mishmash of qualifications and those who use them as employment currency.

During the First Industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries a modicum of education was encouraged by some new industrialists for factory workers, presumably so the latter could read the on/off buttons on new machinery, thus avoiding being jammed in it and slowing production.

The Second Industrial Revolution in the final third of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th brought with it a new level of technological change, standardisation and the Henry Ford assembly line still beloved by some education policy makers.

By performing simple repetitive tasks manufacturing workers became extensions of their machines. They were encouraged to leave their brains at the factory gates.

World Wars I and II encouraged close ties between manufacturing and warfare. The nature of management itself underwent a military metamorphosis, becoming more hierarchical and incorporating terms like the span of control.

Post-World War II American W.Edward Deming , for a long time a prophet without honour his own country, was instrumental in the postwar Japanese economic miracle by encouraging higher standards of statistical education and practice on the factory frontline. This was based on the joy of learning and its application. It embedded quality into the whole manufacturing process rather than it being a postscript at the end of the assembly line.

Today’s Agile World

Today, in a more Agile world, hierarchies have flattened further. As the outcome of organizational intelligence the agile enterprise  uses key principles of complex adaptive systems to rapidly respond to change in a business environment and meet customer’s needs by taking advantage of available brainpower to continuously innovate or disrupt without compromising quality.

But many academic and trade qualifications remain analogue in a digital world.

A less testing school environment

“With the removal of National Standards and the flexibilities of NCEA and growing focus on internal assessments our teachers are going beyond the test and exploring new and interesting ways to capture and evidence learning…”    Claire Amos

As the emphasis shifts at the primary and secondary levels from the summative to the formative,  hopefully reducing assessment form-filling by teachers,  there  will be more opportunities for informal real-time feedback to encourage learners.

This means that what happens now in the tertiary qualifications space is especially relevant.

 

Stronger links with employers

Employers, among others, must be listened to and encouraged to accept the credibility and utility of new ways of providing evidence of learning and doing. The strength of the currency of evolving qualifications needs to be lifted and maintained to avoid triggering Gresham’s Law.

As Phil Ker points out, as the supply of micro-credentials grows a significant challenge will be the extent to which the market is regulated and the credentials are quality assured, as is the case with traditional qualifications.

In a recent Education Central article on micro-credentials and life-long learning  Roger Smyth marks the development of a framework for the creation of micro-credentials, announced by the Minister of Education on 1 August, as a first step in this respect.

No doubt hybrids will eventually emerge, with some micro-credentials becoming later components of diplomas or degrees, while having already served their purpose incrementally.

Lyall Lukey  Convener of annual Education Leaders Forums since 2007.